Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett

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Compare the relationship between Vladmir and Estragon to that between Pozzo and Lucky in Waiting for Godot? . What similarities and differences do you see?

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Vladimir and Estragon are waiting for Godot: some indication that life is meaningful or an escape. The name Vladimir can mean prince, man of the people or ruler of peace. Estragon has the connotative meaning of estrogen and he is the more stereotypically feminine of the duo. One is more masculine and contemplative and the other more feminine and emotion-driven. Or, you could look at them as manifestations of one character since they share characteristics and seem to inherently depend upon each other. Vladimir is the conscious, practical one and Estragon is the soul. These descriptions are oversimplifications because in this play there are no clear answers. Each character is capable of rationality, emotion and existential questioning.

Vladimir and Estragon depend upon each other. Likewise, Pozzo and Lucky are attached: literally by rope. Pozzo is a bully. He defines himself as Master to Lucky, his slave. Pozzo is a symbol of oppression and Lucky is the symbol of the oppressed and the repressed consciousness, which is why his lines are stream of consciousness. His rant adds to the chaos and meandering plot, but his speech actually describes a progression of questioning God, the attrition of life/history and death.

Pozzo and Lucky do more than just wait, but since their relationship is based on subjugation, their existence is historically harmful while Vladimir and Estragon’s is introspective but pointless. Pozzo does things for recognition. Vladimir and Estragon are suicidal. They do nothing but think out loud. Their outlook on life is almost entirely bleak, but they do still wait and try to pass the time with conversation and occasional profound questions. Estragon gets beat up, like Lucky, but Vladimir is not his oppressor.

At times, Vladimir and Estragon sound like an old married couple whose relationship has peaked and become habitual. They are waiting for something that never comes so they are waiting for death. Pozzo and Lucky’s relationship is like the relation between the powers of history and the modern, repressed individual. Pozzo overcompensates to function in the world as a Master. Lucky is the slave but can be commanded to “think,” and his thoughts parallel the confusion and the existential waiting that is characteristic of the modus operandi of Vladimir and Estragon.

For Vladimir and Estragon, Godot is God, boss or master. So their Godot is Lucky’s Pozzo. The idea here is that they might recognize that waiting for salvation from Godot is to wait for nothing or to wait for an oppressor.

Master-slave dialectic: The relationship between Vladimir and Estragon has been interpreted as an attempt to replace the Protagonist-Antagonist framework. Hegel’s metaphor of Master-slave describes history and individual development as a struggle for freedom during which one usually gains superiority over another. Hegel’s metaphor supposed that true freedom would exist beyond this Master-slave, or Subject-object, framework. Pozzo dominates Lucky, but Vladimir and Estragon’s interaction is not so clear cut and this represents an attempt to describe of two individuals seeing each other as subjects (not objects). Their existence appears meaningless but they are actually doing what they can to avoid dominating or objectifying each other and subsequently, they avoid being dominated by Godot. Ironically, they long for a master but avoid one by waiting.

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